October 27, 2010

Spooky decor

I have never been much into decorating for Halloween, but this year I thought I would put out a few decorations to help usher in the fall. I didn't want to spend a lot, so I hit Target and Goodwill (which was having a 50% off sale on all Halloween decorations). More cute than scary, but happy how the house turned out!

Wicker pumpkin on the sideboard. Plus, it will carry over well to Thanksgiving decorating and table settings.

Dishtowels on the bar cart.

Foil pumpkins. And only $3!

Frankenstein candy bowl on the speaker.

Metal spider (and my personal favorite!) on the coffee table.

Another scary Frankenstein in the powder room.

And finally, a witch's broom on the porch.

All that for less than $13.00. How spooktacular!

October 25, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: Halloween

- The word “Halloween” dates from the 16th century. The modern take on Halloween is influenced by the Catholic Hallowmas period of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day and the Roman festival of Feralia.

- Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion on Halloween each year.

- Dressing up in costumes probably dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Costumes were worn to disguise the living from the restless dead thought to be walking the earth.

- Haunted houses bring in $300-500 million each year.

- Trick-or-treating dates back to All Souls’ Day parade in England. Wealthier townspeople would give poor citizens pastries called soul cakes in return for their prayers for the family’s dead relatives.

- The record for the world’s largest pumpkin is 1,810.5 lbs, grown by Chris Stevens of New Richmond, Wisconsin.

Image: AP

- If you are looking for some templates for pumpkin carving, Martha Stewart has some great ones.

Stayed tuned for more Halloween fun this week on Musings from the Front Porch!

October 19, 2010

From the Baker's Rack: Pizza Dough

A couple of Christmases ago my friend Lisa gave me a cookbook on pizza, Pizza and Other Savory Pies. While I have always enjoyed the pie, yeast breads were still a bit new to me so the book sat on the shelf for about a year.

What a mistake!

The recipe for Thin-Crust Pizza Dough is wonderful. Very easy and inexpensive to make, and there is nothing like the joy of seeing a yeast dough actually rise like it is supposed to. This recipe will yield enough dough to make two pizzas. I usually just freeze half the dough, and the next time you are ready for homemade pizza just defrost, roll out, and bake -- no additional rise time needed. Enjoy!

Thin-Crust Pizza Dough
from Pizza and Other Savory Pies by Brigit Binns

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
¼ cup whole-wheat flour
1 package (2 ½ tsp) quick-rise yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 ¼ cups warm water (110 F), plus extra as needed
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra as needed

1. Combine both flours, yeast, sugar and salt in bowl of your mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix until the ingredients are well incorporated.
Pizza 004

2. With the mixer running, add water and oil in a steady stream. Mix until ingredients form a rough mass, about 12 seconds. If dough does not form into a ball, sprinkle with 1-2 tsp water until ball comes together.
Pizza 008

3. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

4. With mixer on a medium-low speed (think 2 or 4 on your KitchenAid), knead the dough for 10 minutes. Though dough should be tacky but not sticky. If you have a question of whether you should keep kneading it, err on the side of a little longer knead vs. shorter.
Pizza 009

6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil, the cover with plastic wrap. Place dough in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
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7. Turn onto lightly-floured surface and shape into a smooth ball. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Cover both balls of dough with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes. You can then freeze one if you so choose.

8. Preheat oven to 450F. If you have a pizza stone, go ahead and put it in the oven now to get really hot.

9. Roll out one ball of dough to a 9-inch circle. Let rest 15 minutes.
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10. Coat fingers with olive oil, then press dough outward from center until you form a 14-inch circle of even thickness. If dough springs back, cover with kitchen towel and let it rest for a few minutes before any more coaxing.
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11. Brush dough with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
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12. Top with your favorite tomato sauce (I like homemade) and your choice of cheeses and toppings. (This past Saturday I made a pie with spinach, tomatoes, and feta -- yummmm).
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13. Carefully transfer pizza onto hot baking stone (or onto pizza pan if you don't have a stone), then bake for 9-12 minutes.

14. Enjoy!
pizza 002

October 18, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: Fall Cleaning

- Replace the furnace filter. You should really do it about every three months, but in case you haven’t done that, make sure to do it now!

- Change the battery in your smoke detector. Or even better, you can replace your old unit with one with a 10-year battery.

- Find a chimney sweep. And hire him. Creosote (see next entry) can build up and is a fire hazard…I realize that the whole point of a fire place is to have a fire, but you don’t want it in the chimney. 25% of all residential fires in the US are caused by failure to clean out creosote buildup.

Image: http://johngushue.typepad.com

- Creosote: n. black oily accretion that builds up inside of chimney flues.

- Check for drafts. Feel a cool breeze and you don't have any windows open? Repair or replace weather stripping and caulking around your doors and windows to keep out those chilly drafts.

- Clean the gutters. No, it is not a fun job, but it is a necessary one.

- Remove hoses from spigots. The genesis of this blog was one such mistake. Read more.

- Clean baseboards, refrigerator shelves, bathroom drawers, everything! You are about to be holed up in the house for the next few months, and you want it to be clean.

So there you go! Get cleaning…and leave a comment about some of your favorite fall cleaning ideas. If there is such a thing a favorite fall cleaning idea.

October 15, 2010

Happy Friday!

I love a small bouquet on the bathroom counter. Just a little something special in the everyday.

Have a great weekend!

happy friday

October 13, 2010

New header, same name

Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions for the blog name!

After careful consideration, I decided to keep the same name. But as you can see from the middle photo on the new header, my new front porch in Denver could use some sprucing up. I like the pumpkin I put out, but other than that, it is a bit lackluster.

I would like a little bench, bright paint on doors, maybe new numbers? Stayed tuned to see updates to the front porch and the rest of the house!

October 12, 2010

Wonderopolis: On Cooking

Wonderopolis is a new website for parents developed by NCFL and the Verizon Foundation. The site features a Wonder of the Day, and today it's cooking! It only seems appropriate that I pass on the link since (a) I love cooking and (b) I used to work at NCFL!

The theme of the post is math and cooking. In case you didn't know, I am not a math whiz, but cooking is a great way to sneak in some fractions in a fun and family-friendly activity.

Be sure to watch the video, Cooking with Tinkerbell Rockstar. Trust me --- it is hilarious. You'll also find a link to the Smithsonian's online tour of Julia Child's kitchen.

Here is shot of me at the exhibit in DC. Good thing my hair isn't frizzy and huge.

Anyway... enjoy your visit to Wonderopolis and have fun cooking!

October 11, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: Planting Bulbs

- The hyacinth is named after Hyacinthus from Greek mythology.

- Plant spring-flowering bulbs (tulips, daffodils, hyacinth) in the fall because they require a sustained dormant period to stimulate root development.

Image: telegraph.co.uk

- Bulbs must be planted before first frost.

- Store bulbs in a cool (50 – 60 degrees) , dry place.

- Plant bulbs in small clusters or large beds for a more dramatic effect.

Image: pbs.org

- Space large bulbs 3-10 inches apart and small bulbs 1-2 inches a part.

- Plant with pointed side of the bulb up.

- The Assyrians used lilies to cure infections and, when mixed with honey, to remove facial wrinkles.

- Lay out the bulbs before you start digging. You'll be able see if you have spaced them appropriately for the bed and can create custom designs.

- Rake fall leaves over your bulb bed for some extra bedding.

- Tulips were in cultivation in Turkey as early as 1000 CE. They first appeared in England in 1578.

Image: whiteflowerfarm.com

- I just planted 50 daffodil bulbs this weekend. More to come!

October 08, 2010

Happy Friday!

Author's note: A couple of weeks ago we headed up to the mountains to see the Aspens in all their autumn splendor. This edition of Happy Friday features the trees.

Aspens 038

Aspens 050

Aspens 046

October 07, 2010

a rose by any other name

So here is the next big question. Should the name of this blog stay the same, Musings from the Front Porch? Or does a new mailing address + time zone + no humidity = an updated title?

Musings from the New Front Porch? Musings from the Rockies? Front Stoop Scoop?

Please leave a comment and let me know your vote on what to do with the name! Results (and a new header to boot) will be revealed next week.

October 05, 2010


Dear Gentle Reader (if there are any of you left since I never have new content),

My last post was July 9 and it was a picture of some coleus. Since then, the coleus died while I was at Leigh and Matt's beach wedding.

In other news, I have also moved . . . to Colorado!

Here's the moving van in Louisville (unfortunately taken from the wrong direction so my house is not in the background) . . .


. . . and just 30 hours later in Centennial! Author's note: Centennial is a southern suburb of Denver.

Moving 2

Needless to say a lot of things have changed over the past couple of months, and I will hopefully share them with you here. I'll be wrapping up unfinished "afters" that I never posted about the house in Louisville. I'll also be delighting you with tales of my new home and design challenges in Colorado. And, as always, mixing in some delicious recipes and fun factiods along the way.

So let's head west, young man. Adventures await.